Grantee Corner  |  Palmdale School District

A female student wearing traditional clothes dances in a school library
Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Academy student performs a traditional Mexican dance at the Dia De Los Muertos student art exhibit

A male student wearing a backpack stands in front of a table with a robot on it
Cactus Medical, Health and Technology Academy student ensures his robot performs what he programmed it to do

Two female students handle a mannequin
Cactus Medical, Health and Technology Academy students practice rescuing an injury victim in the student's CERT program

A female student poses with an ankle and foot prosthetic
SAGE Academy Space & Aeronautics student works on an ankle-foot orthosis project in Design and Modeling Class

Four students play saxophones and flutes
Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Academy band students perform at a magnet schools recruiting event

Headshot of Barbara Gaines
Barbara Gaines, PSD Project Director

Palmdale School District (PSD) is located in north Los Angeles County. Aerospace is the primary industry in the community, which is home to Lockheed Martin, Northrop, Boeing, and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control Center. PSD serves approximately 18,900 students in transitional kindergarten to eighth grade, plus additional students enrolled in early childhood and Head Start programs. The student population is about 76 percent Hispanic or Latino, 15 percent African American, 5.5 percent White, 2 percent Other, and 1.3 percent Asian.  

PSD received its first Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant in fiscal year 2017. The district’s MSAP project is developing five new middle school magnet programs to reduce, eliminate, or prevent isolation of African American, English language learner, and low socioeconomic students, and to improve the academic achievement of all students by providing school choice. The schools are designed to create and sustain systemic change in educational practices and school cultures using research-based approaches that have been proven effective with similar populations. Each of the MSAP academies has a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) focus, with an additional, unique emphasis that links the theme to the aerospace, business, and professional communities in the area.

Cactus Medical, Health and Technology Academy provides an exciting and rigorous introduction to the expanding medical field. Science classes incorporate lessons developed by the Health and Science Pipeline Initiative to increase student success in the health care professions. Elective courses include anatomy and physiology, medical detectives, Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) certification, CPR, and first aid. Students have the opportunity to participate in Junior Upcoming Medical Professionals activities and competitions. Cactus is a middle school that serves 860 students in grades six through eight.

David G. Millen Law and Government Academy offers courses that help students experience what it looks like to be responsible, engaged citizens. The school hosts many of the district’s law- and government-themed initiatives, such as the Inter-School Communication Council and the Model United Nations Program. The school also has a Mock Trial Team. A schoolwide interdisciplinary curricular approach employs role-play, project-based learning, and guest speakers to help students examine the skills and talents associated with professions in community, state, national and international law, and government. The school serves 1,025 students in grades six through eight.

Desert Willow Fine Arts, Science and Technology Academy provides introductory to advanced learning and performance opportunities for students in a variety of visual and performing arts elective classes. These include film classes from the James Olmos Latino Film Project, which is designed to help Hispanic youths develop a passion for filmmaking. In addition, the school’s environmental science pathway integrates science, technology, and mathematics, and its digital communications pathway provides students with opportunities to communicate effectively and work interdependently as they prepare for multidisciplinary careers. The school serves 876 students in grades six through eight.

SAGE Academy draws on Palmdale’s rich history in space and aeronautics, offering a STEAM academy focused on space and aeronautics to its 1,012 sixth- to eighth-grade students. Teachers and students have opportunities to collaborate with partners from the FAA, the Hypersonic Combined Test Force Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, the National Security Administration, the Neil Armstrong Research Center, and Lockheed Martin. 

Shadow Hills Academy of Engineering & Design delivers a STEAM curriculum through inquiry, project-based learning, and hands-on exploration. The engineering pathway includes computer programming, introductory and advanced game design, geometric design, multimedia, web design, business computers, and business marketing. The school serves 973 students in grades six through eight.

PSD’s MSAP Project Director is Barbara E. Gaines. Previously a school principal, Gaines currently works in the Educational Service Department as the Director of Curriculum & Instruction-Middle Grades.